The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Heifer No More?

June 27th, 2014 · No Comments · Posted in farming


Our Jersey heifer Emily took a big first step toward motherhood yesterday. When we noticed she was cycling, we called Joe Hamilton, who arrived around dinnertime to inject the sperm of an Angus bull.

You might remember Joe. He’s the guy who sheared our sheep earlier in the spring. That’s his sideline. By day, he inseminates local dairy cows. Call him day or night: he’s always ready to spring into action when your cow’s moment arrives.

We’d been watching Emily carefully because the window for conception is fairly small–about 24 hours. When multiple heifers are together, knowing when the time is right isn’t so difficult. They start romancing each other. But with a single cow, you have to pay attention. Emily tends to give herself away. She bellows. Not a retiring moo, either, but really loud, really persistent cow shrieks. Sometimes it lasts for hours.

Cycles for dairy cows typically run about 21 days apart. Emily keeps to a nearly perfect schedule. So as soon as the bellowing started yesterday, we called Joe, placed the rope halter on Emily and walked her off the pasture where she was grazing with the sheep and her boyfriend, the goat Tigger, and into the permanent paddock where Joe could tend to her.

Joe wears a plastic glove on his left arm that reaches all the way to his shoulder. That’s because he has to reach far up the cow’s rectum to manipulate the probe containing the sperm. He guides it up the uterus and past the cervix. It takes about 30 seconds.

According to Joe, cows circulate a hormone when the time comes that makes them calm. Emily endured the procedure without any fuss at all, and if we’re lucky, she’ll be delivering a calf nine months from now. Gestation for cows is about the same as for humans.

On Joe’s advice, we chose an Angus donor to raise the calf as beef. Raising it on grass, we can probably expect another two years after the calf is born before it’s ready to be turned into steak.

Calendars. Everything is about calendars on a livestock farm, and in some cases you need one that looks far into the future.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.